LAS VEGAS – On one of the many days Leo Dunson wanted to die, the Iraq veteran put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. The loaded weapon misfired. For the troubled former soldier, it was another inexplicable failure, like his divorce or inability to make friends after returning from the war.
One in six Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some committed suicide. Others are receiving mental health services at military hospitals. Many more are like Dunson and have refused help, according to research by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD.
Dunson, who was discharged from the Army in 2008 and diagnosed by the military with PTSD, uses his music to examine his disappointment with veteran life. It is the only thing keeping him alive, he said. He refuses to attend counseling or visit his local VA hospital.
The use of music to heal war wounds is part of an emerging field of alternative treatment being embraced by military officials eager to help veterans suffering from PTSD. In Wisconsin, New Jersey, California and other states, government doctors in recent months have launched experimental music therapy programs that rely on the smoothing sounds of classical or acoustic music to help veterans get well.